NORTHFIELD, Minn – On the back of a two-goal performance from Will Corcoran (Sr./Mahtomedi, Minn./Mahtomedi) and a tremendous defensive effort in the second half, the Carleton College men’s soccer team defeated Saint John’s University, 2-1, to claim its second MIAC postseason crown along with the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
“It was a team victory out there today,” said Corcoran after the match. “The 11 guys out on the pitch gave everything they had, everyone who subbed in brought a huge effort, and even the players on the bench helped give us the energy we needed to keep going forward.”
Just two days after a grueling 1-0 victory in miserable pitch conditions during their semifinal match at St. Olaf, the Knights (15-2-3) needed all the energy they could muster to conquer Saint John’s (9-7-3). The Johnnies had played Carleton to a draw earlier this season and came into Satruday’s match hot off a 2-1 win against top-seeded Gustavus Adolphus.
Corcoran provided some of that early energy himself. In the 10th minute, Jordan Cammarota (Jr./Neenah, Wis./Neenah) dribbled the ball down to the Saint John’s end-line, and sent a cross in the air along the six-yard line. Corcoran got a late break on the ball but outran his defender, striking his volley into the open side of the net to give Carleton the early advantage.
Corcoran struck again in the 22nd minute. After Branden McGarrity (So./Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) was dispossessed inside the 18, Corcoran ran on to the loose ball. With his first touch, he shifted it into an open lane a few feet to his left. His subsequent shot burned a path past diving Johnnies’ keeper Ryan Brutger and inside the left post to increase the score to the 2-0.
Branden McGarrity (left) and Sam Hayward (#12) rush to celebrate Will Corcoran's (#7) second goal of the match.
Carleton carried that same advantage into the break thanks to James Neher’s (Sr./Mahtomedi, Minn./Mahtomedi) save of a close-in shot from the Johnnies’ Michael Coburn shortly before the break.
Saint John’s wasn’t ready to go away just yet, however. In the 73rd minute, Rocky Harmon made a move past his defender at the top of the penalty area and launched a shot into the upper-right 90, bringing the visitors within reach of a tying goal.
Two minutes later, Neher fell to the ground after punching away a Saint John’s corner kick. The Johnnies’ David Wee found himself with the ball and an open lane to the net. He launched what was sure to be the tying tally. At this point, first-year player Riley Phelps (Bowling Green, Ky./Bowling Green), a recent convert to the outside back position, came to the rescue and headed the ball away at the goal line, preserving Carleton’s slim lead.
Phelp’s deflection proved to be the last shot the Knights were forced to face, and at the end of 90 minutes he and his teammates hoisted the MIAC postseason title.
“We played an emotionally and physically exhausting semifinal on Thursday and our backline simply willed themselves to defend the lead,” said Carleton head coach Bob Carlson, “Saint John’s put us under duress often in the second half.”
The Knights finished the match with a 14-6 shot advantage over the Johnnies, who put all six of their shots on-frame. Neher contributed four saves in the victory.
With the win, Carleton has also earned the MIAC’s automatic qualifying bid to the 61-squad NCAA tournament, while two other MIAC squads—Gustavus and St. Olaf—will have to wait and hope to earn one of the 19 coveted at-large bids when the tournament breaked is released at 12 p.m. (CST) on Monday, Nov. 11.
“I am proud of every single guy on our roster,” said Carlson, “They've worked extremely hard since day one of our preseason to earn another MIAC title, and their willingness to sacrifice and invest in our program is the reason for their success.
“They've been led admirably by Joey Pedtke, Michael Hovick, Neil Bartholomay, Will Corcoran, James Neher, Simon Ginet, and Ben Walsh. Those seniors have encouraged, pushed, and guided us. Even in the midst of the celebration, they reminded the group that more work is necessary starting with their recovery today. Their experience will be vital as we prepare for another trip to the NCAA tournament.”
Information on Carleton’s first round match-up will be available Knights Online later on Monday.
Click here to view the NCAA selection show.
Carleton goalkeeper James Neher pounces on a loose ball in the box.